The Secrets of Learning the Fretboard

AP-008 How Do I Memorize Songs?

Ask Patmac your guitar questions about practicing


I started my music course this week and had to play a song from memory. I struggled to recall the chord progression without my safety net. Any advice on how to improve this please?


The key to memorizing songs is to play them without the safety net.  Here’s what I recommend.
  1. Practice with the notation/notes/etc.  Obviously you have to learn it somehow.
  2. Practice parts of the song without the notation (don’t even have it in sight for this).
  3. When you can play a part three times in a row without notation, you did well for the day.
  4. Repeat without ever looking at the notation the next day.  Your goal is to play from memory at least three times in a row again.
  5. The day after that you’ll try it again.  The goal is three times a day for three days without ever looking at your notes.
  6. If you want to remember it long-term, I suggest continuing to play it a couple times per week from memory.


  • You can use this method with different parts of songs.  Verse, Chorus, intro, etc.  Don’t forget to play the whole song together with this method after learning all the parts.
  • If you struggle with a section, slow it down.  If you struggle with a part, it will distract you from your goal of memorizing.  If anything skip that measure or hard part and continue with the rest of the song.
  • Use a metronome to keep your time.  Your mind will remember the general timing of the song even if you skip hard parts.
About Patrick MacFarlane 127 Articles
I've been teaching guitar online for 25 years. My site has been featured in Rolling Stone and Acoustic Guitar magazine. I'm the author of The Secrets of Learning the Fretboard and Guitar Lesson World The Book.

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